Study: U.S., U.K. Lead in Internet Use

Businesses in the United States and Britain are the most likely to use the Internet for marketing and customer support, according to a new study by research giant Taylor Nelson Sofres.

More than 90 percent of U.S. companies and 86 percent of U.K. firms are using the Internet for some type of advertising, marketing, sales, CRM, or support, London-based TNS found.

But in several other key technology markets like Singapore, Denmark, Japan and France, businesses are less likely to be making the Internet part of their customer outreach. In Japan, about 60 percent of businesses are using the online medium as a marketing channel — nearly double the 36 percent of companies that do so in France.

American and British firms also tend to leverage the Internet for a greater number of business functions than do their peers in other parts of the world. Businesses in the U.S. and U.K. used the Internet for an average of five out of ten generic applications — marketing, CRM, selling, e-mail, employee schedule management, knowledge management, order fulfillment, supply chain management, training, and wireless access. But firms in other regions covered by the study were likely to use only two or three of the ten applications.

As a result, the findings suggest that U.S. and British companies’ recent heavy investment in online solutions and infrastructure has naturally led to greater use of the Internet to replace offline business functions.

But there could be other factors, as well, said Chandra Chaterji, senior vice president of Taylor Nelson Sofres Information Technology.

“In many ways this is a reflection of the cultural differences towards doing business in different countries,” Chaterji said. “In Japan, and to some extent in France too, face-to-face contact continues to be extremely important and the more impersonal approach of an online transaction may still not be considered to be a satisfactory way of conducting business.”

There’s no finding in the study that points to a cost savings from the switch, though the research does suggest that about two-thirds of U.S. and British firms plan to actually decrease their Internet-related spending during 2002. Potentially, at least, this could result from concerns about over-spending in the sector, as well as having reached a satisfactory level of investment in Internet applications.

At the same time, 56 percent of French and 61 percent of Japanese businesses reported that they planned to increase Internet-related expenditures.

Despite possible cultural deterrents, Chaterji said, “there seems to be a realization in markets like Japan, France and elsewhere that investment in e-solutions has lagged behind … some other major economies, and there is a need to start exploring the full potential of online applications to businesses in the future.”

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